Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Cakes Glorious Cakes - 2018

The cakes at this years Cake International were spectacular again. 

The life sized Harry and Meghan cake has been updated to show  Meghan carrying a baby book and Harry wearing a union flag and carrying a baby bag. Note the tiny teddy sticking out of the bag.

Harry featured again along with his mother Lady Diana and his brother William. A deserving gold winner.

We also had dogs, gorillas and eagles.

Another Gold Winner. Love how the dog is licking at the French Fancies. 

A Gorilla clutching her baby in her arms.

You can even see the ruffling of the eagle's feathers.

Laurel & Hardy made an appearance in Black and White and won Gold in their category.

Shoes and handbags good enough to eat.

There was magic and imagination with a Sorting Hat;

 An Outlander Cake with Jamie and Claire reaching out to touch the stone circle.


And an array of Discworld characters including:-

Cohen the Barbarian

The Librarian

The Luggage


And even the Late Sir Terry Pratchett made an appearance riding 
Great A'Tuin

This month marks a 100 years since Armistice Day and it was humbling to see how the bakers commemorated this auspicious date and honoured our fallen.  

Another Gold cake that won 2nd place.

Below is the well deserved 1st place.

A simple white cake with the only splash of colour the red poppy on the soldier's uniform as he bows his head and the poppy on the cross on the side of the cake. Along with lines from the poems; 
'For the Fallen', and 'In Flanders Fields'. 
A quiet cake that speaks to the heart. 
So deserving of Gold and first place.

Lest we forget.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass

This is one of my favourite return to books as the exercises at the end of each chapter are designed to help you enhance the manuscript you are currently writing or editing.

Each chapter is a discussion on the subject, example(s) and exercises. There are 34 chapters including; From Protagonist to Hero, Multidimensional Characters, Larger-Than-Life Qualities, Ultimate Stakes, and High Moments.  

All the chapters have exercises with follow up work as well. For Example the chapter - Larger-Than-Life Character Qualities - has an exercise section on 'Creating Larger-Than-Life Qualities:-

Step 1: Write down the following: What is the one thing that your protagonist would never, ever do, say or think?

Step 2: Find places in your story in which your protagonist must do, say or think those very things. What are the circumstances? What are the consequences? Make notes, starting now. 

Amazon.com:   Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook
Amazon.co.uk: Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook

This reversal is shown to great effect in 'A Knight's Tale' where main character, William, refuses to forfeit a jousting match even though everyone else has because the opponent is the heir to the throne. Thus demonstrating William's determination to win regardless of the risks. So when his love interest asks him to lose the jousting tournament to prove his love for her we understand how much this goes against his nature and the depth of his love when he does indeed do the one thing he never would. This is a true memorable moment. With this book you could include many more memorable moments in your manuscript

I love that that the exercises have follow up exercises, usually to find more places where you can repeat the exercise or even have your character pointedly let the opportunity go.

I return to this book time and again and I know I'm not the only author that does so.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

My Review of Debut Novel - The Season for Love

The Season for Love by M.W.Arnold

Believing she was responsible for the death of her husband, Chrissie Stewart retreats from all those who love her. A chance meeting with mysterious stranger, single-parent Josh Morgan and his bewitching young daughter Lizzy, breathe new life into her and gradually, she feels able to start to let go of the memory of her lost love. Unexpected links are revealed between the two families that strengthen the growing bonds she feels to this man and with the encouragement of her best friend Annie, herself hiding a hidden conflict from Chrissie, she battles with her demons to believe in her ability to trust and love again. Everything comes to a head on Christmas Day; which all goes to show that this is truly The Season for Love.

Title: The Season for Love
Author: M.W.Arnold
Publisher: Passion in Print Press
Publication Date: 16th December 2017

Rating: ¶¶¶¶ê  (4.5)

I loved this story of young bereaved Chrissie waking up from the cocoon she'd retreated into after the death of her husband. This could have been a dark read but Mick's writing style is bright and breezy and you get swept up in this tale of lost love and new hope. His characters are lively and vivid yet he is able to show the struggles and pain of those who are suffering difficulties.

I found the story quick paced and enjoyed how Mick used Chrissie's diary notes to give us glimpses of Chrissie's former self and as an insight into the guilt she is feeling. It was also a lovely way of signposting Chrissie's inner journey throughout the story.  
This is a debut novel and there are a few imperfections but I loved the premise and how the plot developed and most of all Mick's exuberant writing style and I look forward to this author's future books as he has the makings of a great storyteller. 

Author Bio – Mick is a hopeless romantic who was born in England, and spent fifteen years roaming around the world in the pay of HM Queen Elisabeth II in the Royal Air Force, before putting down roots, and realising how much he missed the travel. This, he’s replaced somewhat with his writing, including reviewing books and writing a regular post at the www.NovelKicks.co.uk blog site.
He’s the proud keeper of a cat bent on world domination, is mad on the music of the Beach Boys and enjoys the theatre and humouring his Manchester United supporting wife. Finally, and most importantly, Mick’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, with the forthcoming publication of his debut novel The Season for Love.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Cakes. Glorious Cakes.

This year's cake international competition pieces at the Birmingham NEC were spectacular. 

As a taster; this cake which won silver in its category, depicts the success of the show.

It truly was a feast for the eyes.

From human sized seahorses to alien spaceships that rotated.

From little mermaids to - well, more saucy mermaids.

I was greeted by a life sized David Attenborough which was a gold winner.

And fell in love with a dress which was divine from every angle.


I looked on in awe at all these amazing creations from all around the world. Loved the facial details and the gorgeous draping of the dress and cloth from this gold winning entry from Italy. A true work of art.

Gold winner from Italy.

Most were sugar craft but one of the largest was Chocolate Magic which they were working on during the show. Stopping it from melting, being the most challenging aspect, but the beauty and the intricacies were breathtaking.  

Two of my favourite bust cakes were:- 

Hugh Jackman - Well who doesn't want to take a bite out of him!

And Sir Bruce Forsyth OBE who deservedly won gold. 

A fitting touch was the remembrance poppy worn on his lapel which leads me to the piece de resistance:- 

The life sized 'War Horse' ensnared by barbed wire in the middle of no-man's land and dripping blood. Eyes so real they cry out to you to help him. 

And by his side two beleaguered poppies.

To the sugar and chocolate crafters, I salute you.

Monday, 9 January 2017

10 Ways to get your writing organised.

It's January. A new year has begun. Time to think about your resolutions for the year. Do you want to get that manuscript finished? Start pitching? Get published? Well whatever your resolutions - first you need to get organised.

1) Have a clear out of all those things you no longer need. Clear off your desk. Clear off your desk top. Streamline you computer files. Move those old projects you will probably never get around to, into a single folder. That way you won't get distracted when you open up your word processor to start work on your current project.

2) Invest in some storage. When I saw this set of storage draws I couldn't resist. I have placed it on my work desk but it can be put on the floor as it comes with wheels so can be moved around. They have clear plastic ones as well but I wanted my organisation to be colour coded. I associate different colours to my stories and so I can match a corresponding draw for each of my current writing projects. Plus I still have draws left for research; stationery; writing gloves. Whatever works for you.

3) If you've got notes for a project either in several note books or just simply out of order, get a folder and some plastic pockets and organise your notes into chronological or chapter order and use the pockets to store each page. (If you've been using A6 note books you could try cutting out the sections and gluing onto A4 paper so it slides into the pocket easier and stays the right way up). Put them in the draw for that project, then when you get to that particular part in your manuscript you can find your corresponding notes.

4) Set up a story board for your current project.

5) Do a time chart. If you only have 3 hours to spend on your writing - break your time down into sections - dedicated writing time (make sure you switch off your social media) - speed writing time - book plotting - social media time (keep this one till the end of your available time. This way you can post your progress - a great way of keeping you motivated). Remember - You know what you want to achieve, so work out what you need to do to achieve it. It's your time chart, make it work for you.

6) Get a wall calendar. Mark any up-coming events you're looking forward to. Set yourself targets and plot your progress. Use pretty stickers, or brightly coloured pens.

7) Attach a plastic pocket to your wall chart / calendar so you can store your pens and stickers, so they are easy to hand and not cluttering up your desk.

8) Make schedules, set deadlines and keep them.

9) Use labels. Make them clear and easy to read. The quicker you can find what you are looking for the more productive you can be.

10) Keep track of what you have done. Set up a spreadsheet to record where you have sent projects to: what date, the response. Track your progress on your current project: Word count, character lists, scene chart. Remember to enjoy your successes. 

Get organised and get going.

Any other great tips for getting organised? Let me know in the comments section.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes.

Rating   ¶¶¶¶ê

As a writer I love books on writing, especially books on plotting. One of my favourites is Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Yet as useful as I have found this book I always felt it came up short when applied to writing romance.

Amazon US   Amazon UK

I understand the writing convention of romances; the getting to know you, the falling in love, etc. but these conventions don't fully match up to the Blake Snyder's beat sheet.

Then I read Romancing the Beats by Gwen Hayes. It's short and concise, which I like as it doesn't eat into too much of my writing time. The writing style is friendly and Gwen likes to emphasise her points with pop culture quotes and song titles.

She breaks the romantic beats down into the four sections of the three act structure (the second act being split in two) and each of these four sections have five beats which forms the structure of the romance between the hero and heroine.

Now I like to use Blake Snyder's beat sheet to help me outline and roughly plot out my books. Blake Snyder's beat sheet has 15 beats. Romancing the beat has 20. So you can see this fills in the gaps where the previous method came up short, especially in the romance stakes.

But equally this doesn't mean you end up with 35 beats as some of the romance beats fit into Blake Snyder's beats quite naturally. For example:- Blake Snyder's 'setup' beat would include Gwen Hayes 'introduce hero 1' beat, and Blake's 'inciting incident' beat could include Gwen's 'meet cute' romance beat.

As there are 20 romance beats against the 15 Save the Cat structural beats you will automatically have scenes dedicated to the blossoming romance which will now follow a logical progression.

Both these books also have a beat called 'Dark Night of the Soul' but as Gwen says you may end up with two of these beats, one involving the external plot and the other being the character's reaction to it.

So for my last book I used the Blake Snyder beat sheet as my starting point and then incorporated Gwen's romance beats. This meant that wherever I was in the external plot I could see which romance beat I needed to ensure my characters experienced next to make the romance have its own natural arc.

I also keep a list of the beats on a post-it note on the wall of my writing room so if I get lost or feel the romance is not taking the right course, I just look up and can instantly see what beat needs to come next.

My favourite part is her recommendation of using the romance beats as a checklist, either before, during or after you have written the book.

Plus I found that by using the conjoined method of Blake's structural beats and Gwen's romance beats I ended up with a two-page structural outline which I can then use to form the basis of my synopsis. Making this book immensely useful at all stages of the writing process.

I've given it four stars as whilst it is short and to the point I found some of the explanations for the beats to be too vague. But it definitely gets five stars for versatility.


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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Is a Social Media Course worth doing?

My new dawn saw me packing up my laptop and catching the train to London to attend a one day Social Media Course for Writers organised by the lovely Anita Chapman from www.neetsmarketing.com

Even before the day of the course she was gracious enough to answer my questions regarding facebook and to send me a link to www.canva.com so I could design pictures with captions (see opposite). However I still managed to tweet my picture without the caption, but I'm learning and thanks to Anita I'm getting better.

After introductions, welcome beverages and melt-in-mouth pastries, we began with twitter and tweetdeck. The latter organises your twitter feed into different columns, i.e. if you are a Poldark fan you could set up a column for #Poldark. This would feed all the tweets with that hashtag to that column so you don't have to do a specific search, after all us writers are busy people and we need our distractions in plain sight.

You can also set up your Twitter Lists as a column and have the twitter accounts who tweet about history in one column, and those about writing in another.

Tweetdeck also allows you to schedule tweets to be sent when you are not online, so as to reach your overseas followers or at intervals throughout the day.

Next we looked at facebook and the different privacy and notification settings and how they work. How to create Facebook paid ads which can incorporate a 'Buy Now Button', useful for after publication.

We broke for lunch to a great choice of cooked food and salad. Plus cakes, lots of cakes.

Our afternoon started with blogging. How to add a Twitter Button or better yet a Twitter Feed and Facebook widget.

Next was best practice for inviting Guests to post:- Give clear instructions on type of post, date, when to send by, what to include - profile, photo, bio, book cover blurb, where to buy and social media links. Give them a structure to follow so it is easier to transfer to your blog without needing extensive editing. Promote the post.

Finally we discussed author brand. For me, Regency, Romance, History, England,Writing. And how important it is to keep to the themes of your brand. So your visitors know what to expect from you and your posts.

But the most important thing we learned is to take lots of photos. I only took one but it's of cakes, lots of cakes. (See above - I had the cream slice.)

So is a Social Media Course worth doing? Simple answer, yes. I learned things I didn't even know I needed to learn. I have a better focus on what to post, gained the skills to organise my different social media platforms and I got to meet lots of other lovely writers.

Oh and did I mention the cakes?